Healthcare mega-mergers push primary care clinics 'closer to extinction': 5 takeaways

Primary care physicians saw office visits fall 18 percent from 2012 to 2016, according to Health Care Cost Institute data, despite an incline in specialist visits. The New York Times reports new threats from retailer and insurer mega-mergers are pushing primary care clinics "closer to extinction."

Here are five takeaways from the report.

1. There are roughly 12,000 retail clinics and urgent care centers in the U.S., according to Merchant Medicine data cited by the NYT. Patients are choosing these clinics for simple health needs more often than before, where a nurse practitioner or physician assistant can offer cheaper care than may be administered in a physician's office.

2. These types of clinics stand to become even more popular as retail giants Walmart and CVS Health explore mergers or partnerships with Humana and Aetna, respectively. Troyen Brennan, MD, CMO for CVS Health, told the publication CVS Health is "evolving the retail clinic concept. It requires new and different work by the nurse practitioner," such as monitoring chronic health conditions rather than simply offering a flu shot.

3. Jeffrey Le Benger, MD, CEO of Summit Medical Group in Berkeley Heights, N.J., told the publication, "There is huge consolidation in the market right now. Everyone is fighting for the primary care patient."

4. This looming pressure comes as the patient-physician relationship continues to undergo fundamental changes. Patients are expecting more on-demand care and services they can access 24/7 instead of during business hours.

5. However, some physicians continue to stress the importance of one-on-one care sustained over multiple years, rather than a stop-and-go approach where medical history isn't as readily available. Shawn Purifoy, MD, a family medicine physician in Malvern, Ark., told the NYT long-lasting patient-physician relationships aren't "something I can do in a minute. You're never going to get that at a MedExpress [UnitedHealth Group urgent care center]."

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